Behind the Notes

Fantasies and daydreams color the way we think, but what possibilities can arise when music illuminates the imagination? Composer Mark Dancigers and his chamber music group NOW Ensemble attempts to explore the moments where the distance between reality and imagination suddenly and unexpectedly converge with their new album Dreamfall, a title taken from the name of a piece that premiered at last year’s New College New Music series performed with Fuzion Dance artists. Dancigers is also a visiting assistant professor of music at New College of Florida.

DANCIGER’S OWN JOURNEY through music began when his father gifted him with a record player for his sixth or seventh birthday. After playing the ubiquitous “Birthday” song by the Beatles, his father put on Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, an orchestral frenzy of deep bells, squawking clarinets, the beating of violin and viola strings with the wooden stick of the bow and glissandos that tells the story of self-destructive passion. “I remember being completely blown away by the huge bells that come in late in the symphony,” Dancigers recalls of the piece. “It didn’t sound like anything I had heard before. That memory always stuck with me and created the impulse to explore new sounds.”

A few years later, he began playing the guitar and eventually studied music composition at Yale University. During his time at the Yale School of Music in 2004, he met fellow composers Judd Greenstein and Patrick Burke. Imbued by a sense of urgency to create chamber music that spoke to their generation, the young composers formed NOW Ensemble, a classical group borrowing from a broad range of styles and defying the attributes usually associated with traditional chamber music. With an unusual instrumentation of flute, clarinet, electric guitar, double bass and piano, the ensemble strives to produce bold and challenging music through close collaborations with composers and compelling performances, whether in traditional concert halls or unexpected rock and jazz venues. “We had this idea to form an ensemble that was more about making chamber music that directly connects with an audience, that bypasses some of those gatekeepers in the classical musical world, an ensemble that doesn’t go out and play competitions or wait until Carnegie Hall calls,” Dancigers explains. NOW Ensemble’s performances have been featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and and its sophomore album Awake charted at number one in Amazon’s Classical Chamber Music Charts.

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